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Sailing

This was one of the days you dream about. Wind 13-15, temp 72F, crystal clear sky. About 1430 I said to my wife, “I have to go out on the boat. Wanna go?” She really did, but couldn’t – had stuff to do.

I got the boat ready and cast off. Went 200 yards and turned around. The engine was surging suspiciously. Fuel, obviously – filter? No. . . that’s the way it acts when it’s low on fuel. I eased back into my slip and didn’t even tie up. Dug my two jerry cans of fuel out of the lazarette and put all 11 gallons in the tank. It holds 13. That pretty much confirmed the symptoms I was experiencing as low fuel. Like many sailors, I have a fuel gauge on board, but it doesn’t work! It used to, but was never very accurate. I’m pretty sure I can bring it back to life with a little cleaning and adjustment of the float mechanism, but it’s not one of the more fun maintenance items, and if you carry extra fuel, it’s not really a problem.

Back out the creek, out into the bay (no engine surging now), out of the traffic area. There are white caps, the wind is SE with lots of fetch kick up the chop. I set reefs in both sails before raising, and off we go at 5+ knots – late season hull fouling taking half-to-three-quarters of a knot off our speed.

I love the way the reefed headsail sets. The shape is perfect!

With the reefs I was comfortable and controlled, but hard on the wind, we were heeling a fair amount. Out 5 miles past the pound nets. Not many other boats out today. I passed one other sailboat. He was on the opposite tack, sailing down my reciprocal course. We waved. By then we were out in the open bay and shore breeze had stopped affecting the wind strength and direction, so our angle of heel was less.

I tacked, and followed the other boat back the way we came. The afternoon was getting old and the wind was consistently more moderate as evening drew near. Still, the reef was a comfortable way to sail.

Sailing back down the outbound course, opposite tack.

We crossed the channel, out of the traffic lanes, and hove to. Dropped and bagged the sails and motored towards the creek entrance.

Backing in with a little trouble – wind on the stern, I kept having to bump back into forward with opposite helm to get lined up – then we were parked, tied up, cleaned up, closed up.

I took a few photos of the varnish-fortified Cetol teak.

As it turns out, the shiny bits are hard to capture with a cell phone camera. I’ve gotten lazy – I used to use my dslr for all of this stuff.You know you have the right boat when you keep looking back at her as you walk away.

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Hey, this is a different view for me –

Without the tiller pilot, I can rarely leave the helm. Note the fishing rods along the starboard side of the coach roof.

It’s really cool to get out of the cockpit and stand on the bow while motoring. I can do this under sail also, if the wind is moderate. Not a big deal I guess, just novel for me.

I’ve been on the bay several times lately – not sailing so much, as the wind has been very calm – but drifting, and. . .  fishing! Yes, another novel thing for me to do. I fished with my dad all the time growing up, but haven’t done so for years. When we moved from Jacksonville to Washington DC, I got rid of all my fishing gear, seeing that the kids we grown up and I didn’t have that much interest in it beyond the kids’ interest. But I’ve gotten my line wet several times this year (acquired some gear at the second-hand store near me). Sadly, my skills are less than poor. I haven’t even gotten a bite this year! Truth be told, I was never a very good fisherman and things very obviously haven’t changed in the intervening years. Oh well. . . actually, it’s kind of better if the fish don’t bite. That way my solitude isn’t interrupted. Still, my son and I are going this Saturday, and we are anticipating catching more fish than we can manage ;-).

I’ve started my fall rounds of varnishing with the nice weather. I discovered something interesting last year, and have decided to experiment a bit more with it. Last fall, I had a little varnish left over in my container, and wanting to use the same container for Cetol. . .  I mixed the two together. It was mostly Cetol, so I didn’t think a very little bit of varnish would have any effect. I was wrong. The varnish made the Cetol finish glossy. I noticed this fall that the small piece of wood finished like this suffered almost zero degradation since last fall, unlike the Cetol-only pieces. Hmmm. . .  So I mixed some varnish and Cetol and recoated all the woodwork that usually got only Cetol. We’ll see how it stands up over the next year. I like the way it looks too – it’s the dark natural finish Cetol, but has a hard glossy shine to it. I’ll get some photos of it next time I’m down at the boat.

Drifting around today, I hauled out my light-air sail and hoisted it. It’s actually (probably) a mizzen staysail from a ketch, but it’s so light-weight that it works okay as a sort of asymmetrical spinnaker with a high clew. It filled and drew well in about 3-5 knots of breeze. It’s fun to just slowly ghost along with a sail that draws that nicely. I should have taken a photo, but, well, I didn’t!

I’ve been away. Literally and figuratively. We travel far and long this summer (to S. Korea and back), and spent every free moment with our kids who were moving there (before they left).

But, I’m back now.

We’ve been day-sailing recently and had an over-night with a group of friends over Labor Day in the Rhode River. Last week I finally installed and satisfactorily tested a tiller pilot that I picked up for cheap at a second-hand marine shop ($40.00!). As I’ve experienced with my previous tiller pilot (that gave up the ghost about 5 years ago), it isn’t strong or fast enough to steer the boat in a brisk wind, but in moderate conditions it’s okay, and of course for motoring it’s excellent.

As you can see, I had to adapt the old bracket with an extension because this unit is shorter than my old one. This is a prototype bracket, and I need to make one that looks a bit more shippy.

I’ve done a couple other small projects on the boat, mostly by way of keeping the appearance and functionality intact (the continuous refit). Otherwise, she’s been sailing great and doing exactly what we want her to do.

Some boaters get 5-foot-itis – the desire to get a bigger boat. We keep pushing that away, knowing that for how we sail and cruise, Cay of Sea is just perfect for us. We are so satisfied with her size, seaworthiness, and cost! Besides that, I can’t imagine starting all over again with a different boat. There is always so much to do with a boat before you trust her completely, know her systems, know the status of all her maintenance items.

We’re completely comfortable with boat we have!

 

 

After church, after lunch, after a nap, I threw off the mooring lines and motored out into the bay with the wind in my face. I was heading south, the wind was heading north. The wind forecast said 8-10 knots on the bay, but in Herring bay it was more like 15-20. With sufficient sea room to drift for a while, I went to work taking a reef in both sails. After sorting out the lines and making sure all was ready, I hauled up the sails and heeled pretty far over. Cracking off the wind a bit helped put me more upright, and I guess I really should have loosened the main sheet as well, but I wanted to go “that way,” which meant I had to stay fairly close hauled.

Crystal clear weather, puffy white clouds, about 80 degrees, and moving between 5.5 and 6.5 knots (just about as fast as we can go) – life just doesn’t get too much better. I’ve been waiting for this all winter and spring. I love sailing by myself.

I noticed that I had missed a reefing line in the jib, so I hove to and went forward to tie it in. Now it’s neat. I followed the wind around, jibed the main, and was back on track. The depth sounder flashed in and out, alternating between the depth and giving an error message. It did this last spring as well, for the first couple of sails – it settled into reliable service just as I was getting serious about shopping for another instrument. I’ll keep my eye on it.

Taking spray over the bow, realizing I forgot to seal the fore hatch. A two-inch opening in the hatch can get things damp. Not going to close it now – I don’t want to leave the helm again. A little water will dry soon enough. Starting to see crab pot markers, and I can see a fish trap in the distance – that stand of sticks in the water, with water birds waiting like vultures on top of each one. Must be an easy meal for them. Past the trap another half mile, and it’s time to turn around. This time I pass to the south of it, and the birds are still undisturbed.

I guess the wind readings on the open bay were accurate, because I no longer need the reefs. I’m not going to shake them out, though. I’ll be back in the land breeze area pretty soon, and I’ll need the shortened sail area again. Cross the channel again and heave to, dropping first the main in the shadow of the backed jib, then releasing the jib halyard and going forward to pull it down. I have a down haul, but never attach it. I’m not satisfied with how I’ve got it rigged. I think I must need to run the line through the hanks, right next to the forestay, to keep it out of trouble.

Sails are bagged or covered, and I’m motoring back up the creek. By the time I reach the slip, I’ve covered 9.75 miles, and the depth sounder is behaving better.

Should have neatened up this reef too.

I’ve got a bit of catching up to do, since I didn’t have much cell service last night.

After a fairly leisurely morning, we upped anchor in the Rhode River and started towards the Wye River on the Eastern Shore. It wasn’t a windless day, but pretty near so. Once into the West River we raised sail and ghosted along at 1-2 knots. When the wind quit completely, we started the motor and made wake for the Eastern Shore, slowing down briefly for the hopes of sailing again, but with no substantive progress towards our goal. When the very light wind failed again, we motored on, finally dropping the hook in the first large creek to starboard on the Wye. We had hoped to go all the way up to our favorite place an hours’ motoring up the river – Ward’s Cove (our name for it) – but with an eye towards the weather forecast for the next two days, we decided to stay near mouth of the Wye. Rain was/is predicted today (this afternoon), as it accompanies a major cold front blowing through. Then tomorrow, temps are to drop into the low 50s with winds on the open bay up to 25 mph. Not dangerous for cautious sailors like us, but certainly not comfortable. We made the decision to come back a day early, and easy access to the mouth of the Wye took an hour off our trip.

Sunrise on the Rhode River

Sunrise on the Rhode River

Windless bay and another motoring sailboat.

Windless bay and another motoring sailboat.

We dropped anchor in six feet of water. There was much honking amid the many different groups of Canada geese in the creek. We were flanked by several of the typical Eastern Shore mansions one sees on the waterfront of many creeks, rivers and estuaries of the bay.

2016-10-20-17-23-052016-10-20-17-22-30I guess the is the country get-away for the east coast one percent. You can see why – it’s just beautiful up here. We relaxed a bit, had dinner, went to bed, and the wind picked up pretty good. 15 – 20 mph gusts made me anxious about my rode to chain splice, but we were fine through the night. Our new Delta 33# anchor held us fast.

Relaxing with a book before dinner.

Relaxing with a book before dinner.

Bugs not welcome. Although a bit worse for wear, our bug screens are indispensable, keeping the buggy wild life on the outside.

Bugs not welcome. Although a bit worse for wear, our bug screens are indispensable, keeping the buggy wild life on the outside.

Morning dawned clear and cool, then a brief fog rolled through, clearing up in about an hour. We got underway at 0930, and as I stowed the rode and chain down the hawse pipe I inspected the rope/chain splice – it was fine: no chafe, no rot, no problem, and no worries. Back out on the Eastern Bay, we raised the jib, as the wind was behind us (my least favorite point of sail with jib and main raised together) and made 3 knots. Turning left on to the Eastern Bay put us hard on the wind, at which point we raised the main. We had about 4 miles to go and a point of land to leeward to clear to get out on the open bay. I wasn’t sure we could point that high the whole time. We actually made it handily. Watkins 27s don’t have a reputation for being very weatherly sailboats, but I think they are fine if handled well and have a set of sails in reasonably good shape. Once we turned into the Eastern Bay, we followed a single compass course for the next 13 miles. Exiting from Eastern Bay, the wind gradually strengthened to about 15 mph and backed around from South to SSE. I kept easing the sheets until we were on a beam reach, and hitting 6.1-6.2 knots from time to time. The sky was blue, it was 70 degrees, and we were on a beam reach for close to two hours. Glorious sailing!

As we approached our home port of Deale, we saw the clouds moving in from the SW. We were moored by 1430, had the boat unloaded by 1500, and the rain began at 1600.

Tomorrow, cold and windy. Glad we’re home snug and warm.

 

 

Although our wedding anniversary was in August, we couldn’t get away to celebrate until this week. Even so, we just had to carve out a few days from the calendar. Retired life can get fairly busy! So today through Saturday we’ll be on the bay visiting our favorite haunts, as the weather and wind allow. I will post daily, provided that I have cell service.

We finally got away from the pier at 1600 and made for the Rhode River, as a northerly course seemed to promise a more favorable point of sail. And it did, for an hour and a half, but as we got clear of the shadow of Herring Bay, the breeze clocked around to a vector more directly astern, losing strength at the same time. I finally dropped the headsail, sheeted the main to centerline, and started the motor. We didn’t want to be caught dodging crab pot floats in the dark. We made good time with a fair current, motorsailing until we made the final turn up the river.

I stowed the sails as Ruth steered, then mustered the sea-and-anchor detail (me).

We’re at anchor now, in a spot we’ve been many times, finished with dinner and waiting for the critical mass to accumulate for showers and bed.

Until tomorrow. . .

This is the time of year when sailing is good almost every day. Breeze is strong, temps are moderate, even the rain is tolerable. So I’ve posted a few photos from recent sails. Not great stuff, but just to give you the feel of sailing on the Chesapeake in October.

Weather looks a little doubtful with respect to rain, but the wind was good. It was a fantastic day to sail.

Weather looks a little doubtful, but the wind was good. It was a fantastic day to sail.

. . . and I wasn't the only one who thought it was a good day to be on the water.

. . . and I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a good day to be on the water.

Photo from yesterday. Started out with fog in the morning. By the time I got on the water the fog was burning off. You can see the remnant mist off the point of Rosehaven (at right).

Photo from yesterday. Started out with fog in the morning. By the time I got on the water the fog was burning off. You can see the remnant mist off the point of Rosehaven (at right).

The cliffs, where I anchor in shallow water and scrub the growth off the bottom. I can anchor in about 4 feet and stand beside the boat brushing the growth off.

The cliffs, where I anchor in shallow water and scrub the growth off the bottom. I can anchor in about 4 feet and stand beside the boat brushing the growth off.

The work boats are always out here. Weather smeather ! - they've got to make a living. This is a hard job.

The work boats are always out here. The water is never too rough, the weather never too bad to make a living. This is a hard job.

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And I'm not the only pleasure boater who thought that a Tuesday morning was a good time to sail.

And I’m not the only pleasure boater who thought that a Tuesday morning was a good time to sail.

I think this boat has a throttle setting titled "plow," or "maximum fuel usage." He was at the perfect speed to send out maximum wake. I'd hate to have his fuel bill.

I think this boat has a throttle setting titled “plow,” or “maximum fuel usage.” He was at the perfect speed to send out maximum wake. I’d hate to have his fuel bill.

Canada geese making their way. One of the iconic harbingers of autumn on the Chesapeake.

Canada geese making their way. One of the iconic harbingers of autumn on the Chesapeake.

Hands-free steering.

Hands-free steering.

Salty skipper and the obligatory selfie.

Salty skipper and the obligatory selfie.

Learning more about sailing alone - heaving to affords a controlled way to drop and bag the sails. Heaving to is the answer to many moments when you just need a to create a space of calm, reduced motion without having to mind the helm.

Learning more about sailing alone – heaving to affords a controlled way to drop and bag the sails. Heaving to is the answer to many moments when you just need a to create a space of calm, reduced motion without having to mind the helm.

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